Last weekend, I was lucky enough to attend a Little League baseball game, a really eye-opening experience where I was able to see the true value of passion and persistence, through the actions of a group of ten year old boys. One team was undefeated, the Rockies, and along with the team came bleachers full of loud and proud parents and on the field, nimble and quick athletes. The history and reputation of both the teams were explained to me before I arrived at the park, so I thought I knew what to expect, but I was absolutely wrong. The opposing team, the Dodgers, were rumored to be a “Bad News Bears” type of squad with only a handful of wins throughout their season, which was nearly over. The Rockies, however were said to be like a Major League franchise that hovered over all the other teams, as a sorry reminder of what they would never be. Of course, I expected a slaughter. I pictured crying young kids in the dugout and disappointed parents dragging the poor little guys home. On the other side I expected to see gloating and a disgusting display of Social Darwinism in the kingdom of sports. I am so glad that I was wrong, it really didn’t go that way at all.
The Rockies coach was a Mike Ditka type, who tried to rule the field with fear of failure. His boys were scared to lose, because of his no-nonsense competitiveness that surprised me at this level of playing. The Dodgers coach, however, was more of a Tony Dungy type, quiet and reserved with an air of stoicism and commanding respect. He wanted his team to have fun and to want to win, period. He realized that fundamentally, you can scare away skill from kids if you require it. Instead he understood the most important part of the game and that is heart. Playing because you love the game and want to win and are not afraid of losing is that key ingredient that took some time to mix with this team. I imagine if they had a longer season they would have won more games, as what I saw amazed me. While the Rockies made error after error in fear of losing to this “lesser” team, the Dodgers just gave it all they had and had a great time doing it. There was no crying and no gloating and it wasn’t even close to a slaughter. The Dodgers lost by only two runs and gave the towering Rockies a run for their money. They would have won too if it wasn’t for that fact that one poor kid tripped over third base and got out at home, leaving the winning run back on second base. Yes, that would have been a better story to tell, but it was close and it was good. It was probably the most exciting game I have seen (and I have seen a lot).
Watching those boys reminded me of these important lessons, you can’t be afraid to lose or you just may. Also, you can never win in your heart and mind if you don’t want to win for the love of what you are doing. To me this means there are two ways to win, on the scoreboard and in your own heart. Scoreboards are always erased and forgotten about, but the accumulation of wins in your life never get erased. I will always remember that great effort I saw with this underdog team and hope that one day they realize that they did win and something much better and more deep than just a game, respect for that game, but most importantly for themselves and their ability to step up to the plate even when the stakes are high.